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Swedish Study Challenges Prevailing View On Concussion Recovery Time

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New research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg has revealed that the recovery process after concussion needs much more time than previously thought. Following a post-concussion analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, the scientific team also established that it can help determine the degree of brain damage that has occurred and thus inform decisions about return to play.

The research team was led by Sanna Neselius, a member of the Swedish Boxing Federation medical committee. The study was undertaken as part of her doctoral thesis at the Sahlgrenska Academy, the institution said on its website.

As Neselius explains, it has so far been thought that concussions take between seven and 10 days to heal. Given this belief, the Swedish Boxing Federation requires athletes to take a month off to recover after such a trauma. However, the work of Neselius and her colleagues shows that concussions can require a healing period of more than four months.

A cerebrospinal fluid analysis can prove very valuable for determining the right time to resume activity. At present, this decision is made on the basis of physical symptoms, neuro-psychological tests and a neurological examination. However, these tests lack sufficient sensitivity and athletes may report lack of symptoms when this is not really the case. While concussion symptoms may be gone in a few days, this does not mean that the neurological damage has disappeared as well, Neselius points out.

Concussions are among the most common injuries in sport and a growing number of athletes suffer such traumas every year. Attention has recently been focused on the consequences of repeated concussions. Neselius hopes that her team´s approach can be applicable to other sports. Personal variables will indicate what measures are to be taken in order for traumas to heal properly.